INDIANAPOLIS -- Nobody will accuse these Kentucky kids of being the fastest learners. Not this season. And certainly not during most of Friday night's game against Louisville.
But once again, late in the game with everything on the line, they figured things out just in time.
Aaron Harrison hit a 3-pointer for the go-ahead score with 39 seconds left Friday night and Julius Randle made two clutch free throws to lift the fantastic freshman of Kentucky to a 74-69 victory over their in-state rivals.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats (27-10) led for a grand total of 65 seconds in this Midwest Regional semifinal. They'll play Michigan on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
"I told them before the game, you'll get punched in the mouth and you're going to taste blood," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "You can fight or you can brace yourself for the next shot. They fought."
Few expected a run this deep for the Wildcats as this season played out and their five freshmen starters struggled to play a team game. But they've been learning slowly. They trailed by 13 midway through the first half, then by seven with 4½ minutes left.
Suddenly, things kicked in.
Actually, it was a sophomore, Alex Poythress, who scored five points and blocked a Russ Smith layup attempt during a 7-0 run that tied the game at 66 with 2:11 left. From there, it was the Kentucky freshmen who showed all the poise against the defending national champions, led by seniors Smith (23 points) and Luke Hancock (19).
Harrison took a pass from Julius Randle and spotted up in the corner for the go-ahead shot. Both finished with 15 points, as did yet another freshman starter, Dakari Johnson.
On the next possession, Louisville's Wayne Blackshear got fouled. The 71 percent career foul shooter missed the first of two free throws. Randle came down and made two free throws to put Kentucky ahead by three. Harrison guarded Smith and forced him to miss a tough 3-pointer on the next possession -- "His first stop of the game," Calipari quipped.
The Cardinals (31-7) took the double-digit lead early, yet went to halftime only up three.
"I told them we probably beat ourselves a little bit down the stretch," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "But how can any of us complain with the run we've been on?"
Michigan 73, Tennessee 71: Wolverines coach John Beilein had watched his team blow almost all of a 15-point lead, and he was sure he knew how the Volunteers would try to take the lead.
With six seconds left and trailing 72-71, coach Cuonzo Martin would probably send the ball into Jarnell Stokes, who would try to back into the post or drive. Beilein urged his defenders to buckle down and keep Stokes away from the rim.
Jordan Morgan, who scored 15 points, heeded his coach's advice and stood his ground until Stokes lowered his shoulder. The senior forward immediately crashed to the floor -- perhaps embellishing the contact -- but drawing the call that saved the game for the Wolverines.
Big Ten player of the year Nik Stauskas made a late free throw and nobody was more relieved than Beilein when Jordan McRae's 70-foot heave fell harmlessly to the floor as the buzzer sounded.
"We got just enough stops," Beilein said.
Tennessee (24-13) thought they got one stop unfairly.
"With the magnitude of this game, I don't think you could call a charge at that point," McRae said dejectedly after scoring 24 points.
But the officials did call it, allowing Michigan (28-8) to reach a second straight regional final.
Midwest: Michigan 73, Tennessee 71
Midwest: Kentucky 74, Louisville 69
East: Connecticut 81, Iowa State 76
East: Michigan State 61, Virginia 59
ELITE EIGHT SCHEDULE
Saturday's regional finals (TBS)
South: Dayton vs. Florida, 3 p.m.
West: Wisconsin vs. Arizona, 5:30 p.m.
Sunday's regional finals (CBS)
Midwest: Kentucky vs. Mich., 2 p.m.
East: UConn vs. Virginia